After an evening of peaceful protests in the wake of the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., tensions flared between officers and demonstrators Tuesday evening, and scattered looting broke out in several areas of the city, prompting police to request that residents of West and North Philadelphia, Kensington, and other areas remain indoors.
Police and demonstrators skirmished at the intersection of 52nd and Market Streets — the epicenter of protests Monday after police shot and killed Wallace — and officers used pepper spray and batons, making numerous arrests. Some of the demonstrators hurled debris at police, and one officer was struck by a water bottle.
Police reported looting in the area of Castor and Aramingo Avenues in the city’s Port Richmond section, and along City Avenue.
The looting reports precipitated the stay-inside requests from the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management.
The protests after the fatal shooting of Wallace by two police officers, an incident captured on a widely circulated video, evoked the demonstrations against police abuse stirred by the killing of George Floyd in May by police officers in Minneapolis.
According to family members, Wallace was battling a profound mental health issues about which police were aware.
“What is especially heartbreaking is that the whole world saw that man murdered in front of his mother," Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, told the crowd that had gathered for an early-evening rally at West Philadelphia’s Malcolm X Park.
Another speaker at the rally, a 17-year-old member of the Philadelphia Student Union named Amina, said that she had been in the same park recently for a vigil for Breonna Taylor, a Louisville, Ky., victim of a police killing, and that ″I’m tired of talking about this in school. I’m tired of talking about this with my family."
The evening had begun peacefully. After rallying at the park, at 52nd and Pine Streets, about 300 people marched to the police station about three blocks away, where they encountered a phalanx of officers with riot shields.
Some of the protesters threw debris at officers, police said, and later police and demonstrators were involved in clashes, however no injuries were immediately reported.
Among the marchers was Andrea Dingle, 31, of South Philadelphia, who brought her four children to stand directly in front of the police line. Five members of the family raised their fists. “My son looks like Walter Wallace, he has mental issues like Walter Wallace. I am scared he will be killed like Walter Wallace,” she said, holding her 9-year-old son, Derrick, close.
“They are out here traumatizing us, they are scaring us," she added. ”They are scared of the communities they are supposed to protect. … I don’t want drama. I just want them to be trained to de-escalate, not shoot."
Speakers at Malcolm X Park had roundly criticized police behavior.
Nkrumah-Ture stressed the importance of organizing neighborhood residents, and to not let the rally become a political event for Joe Biden or other candidates who “don’t care about us.”
Krystal Strong, a Penn professor and member of Black Lives Matter, implored the crowd to honor Wallace as a man, not just a cause to rally around.
“We’re watching the way how Walter Wallace Jr. is becoming a symbol,” she said. “And we’re losing sight of how this was a human being."
“The grief this family is feeling is unspeakable,” she said. “I want all of you here, with all the anger you’re feeling, to think about the life that was lost yesterday.”
Michael Wilson, with Philly for R.E.A.L. Justice and the Workers World Party, said the city and the nation should expect more protests if racial relations don’t improve.
”White people have never seen any value in Black people,” he told the crowd. "One way or another, if this city, this police, white people fail to see any value in Black people, we’re going to be here again and again and again.”
The rally and march followed a community meeting at the Church of the Christian Communion on 61st Street, where Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she recognized the community’s weariness.
“It’s 2020 and we’re still having the same conversations we had years out,” Outlaw said, acknowledging people were tired of “hearing the same thing over and over again.”
Jamie Gauthier, who represents the community on City Council, said there has been some progress since this spring’s protests after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Multiple investigations are underway into police conduct on 52nd Street on May 31 and the next day, when the department teargassed demonstrators on I-676. The department has since banned the use of tear gas on protests. But what has not happened is a true reckoning from the department with the people in West Philadelphia.
“People want to feel they are listened to,” Gauthier said. “I think we need really intense engagement in our community about how people experience police in their neighborhoods, what policing has meant for them, what they want to see change.”
Staff writers Jason Laughlin, Aubrey Whelan, and Ellie Silverman contributed to this article.